Perhaps one of the most crucial skills for a leader is marketing.
Of course it goes by other names in the leadership lexicon – engagement, enrollment, and buy-in come to mind.
Maybe you aren’t asking people to pull out their wallets or their credit cards, but as a leader you will be asking people to invest things that are far more precious than money.
For example, you will undoubtedly be asking others to invest some combination of their time, their attention and intention, their passion, their energy and maybe even a bit of their soul.
They may even have to make sacrifices such as time with family and friends, not having enough energy left at times to do some of the things they love to do, sleep or sleeplessness on occasion, and maybe even putting one of their own dreams on hold.
The opportunity cost of following your lead may indeed be high whether you or realize it or not.
Here are 3 things to consider when you begin your next big initiative or even when you just want to enroll others in an idea. Essentially I am applying the 3 M’s of Marketing that I learned from a course called Magnetic Marketing.
1. Know Your MARKET
Just because you are excited about your vision doesn’t mean your enthusiasm will automatically transfer to others. Sure a well delivered speech may get some people pumped up, but the excitement won’t last unless you find a way to connect with what matters to them.
To “sell” your vision to others you must first be able to put yourself in their world.
Take time to engage in conversations that helps you understand what their needs, wants, frustrations, and challenges are so when you do take steps to enroll them in your vision you can speak to where they are vs. come from where you are.
Be mindful of the illusion that they think just like you. Chances are they don’t. You must take the time to discover what about the vision you have will resonate with those you lead. After all, for you to succeed you will likely need others to own your vision as passionately as you do.
Also, if you have a leadership position you may unwittingly have lost touch more than you may think with the needs, desires and circumstance of those you lead. Steve Keating (@LeadToday) wrote an excellent article about this here.
2. Craft Your MESSAGE Carefully
Instead of communicating from what you think matters most, you must be able to speak into what matters most to those you want to follow your lead.
Seth Godin gives a great example of this using Girl Scout Cookie sales strategies. What approach is likely to sell more cookies: delivering a spiel on the great work of the Girl Scouts and asking them to buy cookies to support YOUR cause; or simply asking people what kind of Girl Scout cookies are their favorite, tugging on “the emotional connection of something that has been in their life since they were a kid”?
The point is to craft your message to land squarely in the mind and emotions of your listener, rather than trying to get them to understand you or your world view.
“…a question that starts a conversation, a question that opens the door to emotion…those are the questions that build careers and create value.” Seth Godin
3. Choose Your MEDIA Wisely
The days of delivering a vision in a formal presentation as though you have just come down from the mountain to deliver the 10 Commandments as a communication strategy are over. Giving these kinds of presentations create an illusion that you have actually communicated your vision to mobilize others.
The ancient wisdom of Confucius comes to mind.
“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” Confucius
If you want true buy-in and ownership of an idea or initiative engaging people in conversation about what it means to them and why it matters to them is essential. A traditional presentation may still be a useful step, but it can’t be the only mode of delivering your message. Design your “campaign” from a context of conversation vs. presentation. Ask questions and make specific requests of people that call for others to engage in conversation and take action that brings your idea or vision to life in their world.
Choose the media and the forums that will engage hearts and minds not just share information. Not only will you increase the odds that your message gets across, but in the process you will demonstrate that they really matter.
In the open marketplace people get to “vote” with their dollars. The choice is all theirs to buy or not.
The choice in an organizational context may not be as obvious. but it is a choice nonetheless between grudging compliance and sincere commitment.
If you really want to elicit sincere commitment, developing your marketing skill is critical.
What marketing strategies do you use as a leader?
Image credit: alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo